11/02/2012 07:56 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Sandy's Climate Conversation

Sandy did what Candy didn't: kick-start a full-blown conversation on climate change. was part of an effort to insert this critical topic into the presidential debates. But despite 160,000 petition signatures, press releases and winning Google moderator votes, Candy Crowley, Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer refused to bring up the topic, the first time climate or the environment was left out of presidential debates since 1978.

Now Superstorm Sandy has changed all of that. Finally the main stream media and politicians are once again taking this seriously. The Bloomberg Businessweek cover says it all: "It's Global Warming, STUPID."

The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson points out,

The traditional dodge -- that no single weather event can definitively be attributed to global warming -- doesn't work anymore. If something looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Especially if the waterfowl in question is floating through your living room.

Too true, but unfortunately Robinson winds up a strong column saying that:

Climate change is a national challenge. Ignoring it is not a solution. Pretending it isn't happening will not make it stop.

Wrong. It's not a national problem. It's a local, national and global problem that will take people and nations around the world working together to solve. The U.S. conversation must do more than focus on hardening its infrastructure. In addition we must talk about hardening our resolve to hammer out a global agreement that truly address the green house gas emissions that fueled Sandy. And this will take presidential leadership.

Whether or not the next president will take this on comes down to a key question just asked by CBS News:

Will the dialogue on extreme weather and climate that has emerged in Sandy's wake alter the national conversation (or lack thereof) on climate change? Or will that discussion recede with Sandy's floodwaters and the week's news cycle?

I believe the media itself must take some responsibility in making sure this growing emergency remains in the public eye. Wen Stephenson, a former editor at The Atlantic and the Boston Globe and, most recently, the senior producer of NPR's On Point, has become a climate change activist. In a moving article titled "A Convenient Excuse", Stephenson lays out a powerful call to his former media colleagues to treat climate change like the emergency it is. He says that,

Failure is repeated across the mainstream media landscape -- the product of a mindset in which climate change is simply another environmental problem, albeit a particularly complex one for which we'll eventually find a technical fix, mainly by doing more or less the same things we're doing now, only more efficiently and with better technology.

Sandy is our wakeup call. Now it's up to all of us -- politicians, the media and you -- to stay awake. Many of us feel burnt out and disillusioned. The failure of the 2009 Copenhagen climate talk took a lot of wind out of our sails. But Sandy's message is clear, "Too bad. Dealing with climate change is not optionional."

Wen Stephenson puts it more bluntly:

Silence, and near silence, is no longer acceptable. To use a phrase from the heroic struggle for AIDS awareness in the '80s and '90s: silence equals death. For countless millions of people, climate silence equals death.